WWDC 2021 is coming, and we know very little about it


Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) takes place online June 7-11. That’s just over three weeks away. So what do we expect?

Known unknowns

It’s interesting how little we think we know this year, but don’t let the lack of anticipation fool you. This may turn out to be a year in which Apple lays the foundations for its next wave of new product launches.

All the same, when Apple goes quiet, I grow curious.

State of the transition: The Mac

Apple only recently introduced new iMacs. These are already racing to the top of the speed charts, delivering 37% gains in comparison to Intel Core i7 and i9 models, making these all-in-ones a nemesis for HP and a viable proposition for any enterprise looking to invest in new desktops.

But everyone’s gone mobile nowadays, so might WWDC 2021 see the introduction of a larger MacBook Pro running an M1 (or M2) chip? Perhaps Apple also plans a larger iMac running that chip? And what about a new display?

Given this announcement would follow just one year since the transition migrated from rumor to reality, there’s a certain punch in making that case — and a chance to update developers on progress toward the Mac Pro.

iOS 15

While iOS 15 won’t launch until September, Apple will give us a first glance of this and all its operating systems at WWDC 2021. Highlights we think we know about so far include improved, contextually sensitive notifications that respond to what you are doing (sleeping, driving, working).

There was a claim that iOS on iPhones and iPads will let us set automatic messages for different times of day, and there was a little speculation that Apple plans to give iMessage a feature update to replace WhatsApp. (That won’t really succeed until it becomes a cross-platform app.)

I’d quite like Stocks to become actually useful, with the capacity to get into small investments directly from within the app, and I expect more insight into indoor mapping and Maps.

It’s easy to predict new privacy tools, particularly a monitoring solution that will tell you which apps are collecting and/or sharing your user data. This information will help consumers name and shame any app developer who has not been completely transparent concerning their privacy practises. And I think enforcement of those policies is coming, too.

I’m also anticipating news around HomeKit and support for Matter, which unlocks some of the big problems around IoT in the home, and everywhere else.

Finally, the most predictable news will likely concern new domains and abilities in ARKit (and an outsider slice of wild speculation, a gut feeling of useful improvements in iCloud Drive to better support remote working).

iPadOS 15

Speculation has included widget support on the entire Home screen, and recent reports that Zoom is working with a private Apple API hints at improvements in FaceTime/video collaboration from Apple’s devices. Finally, there’s a hubbub of speculation that iPads may see improved multitasking added to the mix, given they now run the same chip you find inside the Mac.

macOS 12

Making macOS work even more effectively and efficiently on M-series chips (and between all devices) will be the focus of this year’s release. You’ll also see improved support for iOS apps, but I think the highlight will be creative and professional apps, testimonies from key developers, and perhaps some other surprises. (I’d love to hear Microsoft announce it will make Windows 10 available for M1 Macs through Parallels, for example.) We don’t know much more right now.

WatchOS 8

New watch faces and additional Complications seem inevitable and we’ll see more and improved integration with Fitness+. We may also be told about swim tracking in the Fitness app and that (maybe) a non-invasive glucose monitoring is coming to Health app. We’ll almost certainly learn more concerning recent studies regarding the watch and heart health and COVID.

tvOS 15

Apple has millions of TV+ viewers using its free subscriptions, which time out in July, so it knows it must make some promises and deliver some changes to convince them to stick around with the service once it begins to charge them again. That’s going to take a combination of cutting-edge content and improvements in the service itself.

We know Apple is looking at this, just from the recent changes to the Apple TV hardware (with new remote). Now it’s sensible to anticipate an app redesign, and useful tools such as a children’s mode, parental controls, and screen time management.

What will be interesting is how many of any announced enhancements will also be made available on the third-party devices running the TV app. Will Apple diverge development here? And what about iTunes for Windows?

AirPods

Given recent speculation that Apple plans to update AirPods and introduce Apple Music Hi-Fi soon, AirPods news will all be about the software. I’m expecting significant software tweaks to AirPods designed with hearing health and accessibility in mind.

One more thing

I can’t help but be a little curious that with weeks to go until the developer event, so little is really known concerning Apple’s software plans. The reason this interests me is that we usually have a little more of a clue this close to the event, so the fact we lack that suggests one of two things:

  1. Apple isn’t planning to announce anything interesting (unlikely).
  2. The entire software team is engaged in a highly secretive project.

I’m not entirely sure which option to believe, but with Apple Car and Apple Glasses both heavily hyped and reports of processor shortages across the industry, I can’t help but wonder if there’s a stealthy train coming down the track.

I’ve become enthusiastic over hype before, so I’m not about to hold my breath. But I am curious as to why the software rumor mill has grown so quiet….

How to watch the show

Apple’s WWDC 2021 keynote will be available online and via the TV app. Developers will tune in via the Developer app on Macs, iPhones, and iPads, where they’ll find keynotes and developer sessions, new information and access to labs and more.

Please follow me on Twitter, or join me in the AppleHolic’s bar & grill and Apple Discussions groups on MeWe.

Copyright © 2021 IDG Communications, Inc.



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